Choosing an Occupation Code
Any sponsor that wants to sponsor a worker must ensure that the work that the individual will carry out is a skilled role and that the most relevant occupation code is selected. Occupation codes are set out in the Immigration Rules and are also referred to as SOC codes.
The sponsorship process
All sponsored workers, including Skilled Workers, must be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from their sponsor. This contains information such as the worker’s personal details and location of work. The CoS must also contain a short description of the role, the role title and renumeration. For most routes, it must also contain the occupation code that has been selected for the role.
Applicants must meet the required number of points under their relevant immigration route and the skill level of the role is a key requirement. The way the Home Office determines whether the role is at the required skill level is by reference to the occupation code that has been selected.
The occupation codes are based on a system designed by the Office for National Statistics and are designed to cover all possible jobs eligible for sponsorship. Each role is assigned a four-digit Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code.
In the majority of circumstances, for an individual to qualify for sponsorship, the role must be at a specific skill level.
The occupation codes set out the appropriate salary for each role (the ‘going rate’), along with example job titles that are associated with the role. The relevant occupation codes are set out in the Immigration Rules.
The occupation codes list various different salaries depending on whether or not tradeable points are available. Find out more about the salary calculation.
Choosing the right occupation code
When choosing an occupation code, sponsors should try and find the closest match to the role.
The sponsor should have a clear idea of what the job duties involve, the requirements for the role and the role title.
Appendix Skilled Occupations lists the relevant roles, and related job titles, which may be a useful starting point to compare against the role description. Sponsors should have reference to the ONS Occupation Coding Tool. Users can search for a particular job role and find typical entry requirements and tasks for it. In general, sponsored workers should be performing the majority of the duties set out.
The sponsor must then select the most ‘appropriate’ occupation code for the role. This is a requirement set out under the relevant Immigration Rules.
The Home Office caseworker must not have ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that a less appropriate occupation code has been selected for any of the following reasons:
- the most appropriate occupation code is not eligible under the relevant route; or
- the most appropriate occupation code has a higher ‘going rate’ than the proposed salary; or
- the most appropriate occupation code is not on a shortage occupation list, and the applicant is claiming points for a job under the shortage occupation list; or
- the most appropriate occupation code is not listed as ‘eligible for PhD points’ and the applicant is claiming points for an educational qualification.
If the job for which a sponsored worker is required is a closer match to an ineligible lower skilled role, or if the salary to be paid is too low, then the sponsor will not be able to employ a sponsored worker in the role.
The occupation codes may be updated. Sponsors should therefore always check that a code that has previously been used is still the most appropriate for the role when sponsoring a new worker.
Is the role a genuine vacancy?
The actual duties the worker will perform as part of the role are crucial to how an occupation code is selected and whether the role is considered to meet the requirements of sponsorship.
- requires the jobholder to perform the specific duties and responsibilities for the job and meets all of the requirements of the relevant route;
- does not include dissimilar and/or predominantly lower-skilled duties; and
- is appropriate to the business in light of its business model, business plan and scale.
Therefore, the advertising process, the day-to-day tasks of the role and the original inception of the role all need to be considered when choosing an occupation code.
Further information on the genuine vacancy requirement can be found here.
Implications of choosing the wrong occupation code
If the occupation code selected is not one that is eligible for sponsorship, this will result in the individual’s application for permission to enter or remain in the UK being refused.
If the occupation code selected is one that is eligible for sponsorship, but it is not one that is suitable for the role then this could result in complications at a later stage. If the wrong occupation code has been selected as a genuine error, it may be possible to rectify this. However, if the Home Office is of the opinion that the incorrect code was selected in order to enable sponsorship, as the correct code would not have met the salary or skill level required, then it is possible that the sponsor licence could be suspended whilst the Home Office investigate further.
Choosing an occupation code: How we can help
Our immigration experts are able to provide advice and guidance in relation to selecting an appropriate occupation code and sponsoring workers.
If your organisation requires legal assistance in this area or would just like to discuss your situation with a member of our team, please contact us or complete our enquiry form below.
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